Japan muddies water in South China Sea

Updated: 2011-10-10 11:57


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Japanese Foreign Minister Gemba Koichiro will begin his visit to the Southeast Asian countries of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia on Oct 11, aiming to establish a framework of multi-lateral negotiation to deepen maritime security cooperation, Kyodo New Agency reported Sunday.

The visit takes place just before the East Asia Summit (EAS) to be held in Indonesia in November. The United States, according to the news agency, will attend the EAS for the first time, a move that has stunned the Japanese government.

During the EAS, Japan plans to call for a multi-lateral negotiation framework in the ASEAN, a move it hopes will be supported by the US, but which will probably be rejected, because China does not expect the US to intervene in the South China Sea issue, said the news.

China's military authority has repeated its stance on the South China Sea issue, saying attempts to internationalize it would further complicate the issue.

"Any move which is designated to multilateralize or internationalize the South China Sea issue will make the question more complex and neither will it help," Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng told a monthly press briefing on Sept 28.

Geng repeated China's "constant" and "clear" stance, saying that China owns the incontestable sovereignty of the islands in the South China Sea and their surrounding waters.

On Sept 27, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda agreed with visiting Philippine President Benigno Aquino III in Tokyo that both countries would upgrade the bilateral vice-minister dialogue to a strategic one, and that Japan would help the Philippines bolster its coast guards. Noda is also expected to initiate a call for an international conference on maritime security during the EAS.

China said there is "no question" regarding the freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea, stressing that the region is safe to travel through.

"There is no question about the freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea. Countries in and out of the region are beneficiaries," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said during a daily press briefing on Sept 29.